“If I hadn’t seen the label first, I would have taken the 2012 Donati Claret for very fine Bordeaux,” whispered one experienced taster and devoted oenophile. “Me too,” added another. “I’m glad it’s not,” shot a third. “We just saved ourselves at least $50.00, maybe more.” And that’s no exaggeration. Claret may not be a familiar word in the American wine lover’s lexicon (claret being the age-old English term for the red wines of Bordeaux), but “claret” is increasingly being used to identify California and Washington State wines made exclusively or primarily from Bordeaux varietals. The 2012 Donati Family Vineyard Claret is a clear standout, regardless of its origin. It marries the pure ripe fruit favors of California to the Old World finesse of Bordeaux. Savory scents of blackberry, cassis (black currant), cedar, and what old timers refer to as a classic cigar box scent delight the nose. In the mouth, the Donati Claret comes across as smooth and expansive, as it spreads across the tongue and palate to satisfy the senses. Endowed with soft silky tannins, Donati’s Claret works its magic to the very end, exiting the mouth with a satisfying flourish. Allow this beautiful claret (and extraordinary value) 20 minutes of aeration or longer to call forth all that this wine has to offer, if you can exercise that much restraint. Enjoy!
Although made with fine everyday drinking in mind, Donati’s 2012 Paicines Claret truly appeals to the discerning palate. Consequently, this elegant, sophisticated wine comports itself equally well at a stylish dinner party as it does at the kitchen table with simple mid-week fare. So bring on the flank steaks, sliders, and barbecued ribs, but don’t forget the filet mignon, veal medallions, or crown roast of pork. Veal Milanese or a tasty Veal and Peppers dish pair especially well with Donati’s gracious claret and won’t overpower the wine. Rotisserie Chicken, basted with olive oil, sage and rosemary makes a wonderful accompaniment, too. A Cashew Encrusted Pork Chop offers yet another tasty accompaniment. Vegetable pizzas and red peppers stuffed with Italian sausage, orzo, herbs and Parmesan cheese provide more tasty pairings. Actually, we can’t think of many meats, vegetables, or cheeses that won’t shine in the company of the 2012 Donati Family Vineyard Claret. So whether it’s the weekend or a dreary Monday, take out the wine glasses and reach for the corkscrew: life is about to get a whole lot better.
If we were to survey American wine drinkers as to which appellations (or more precisely which American Viticultural Areas - AVA) are foremost in their minds, Napa and Sonoma would almost certainly top the survey list. However, California remains a treasure trove of family vineyards and wineries with exceptional quality wines from less recognizable place names. In fact, more and more the best quality and value in California wine can be found outside of Northern California’s Big Two. One especially distinguished family winery is Donati Family Vineyard, located in Paicines, California, not far from Monterey Bay. Begun in 1998 by Ron Donati with the notion of growing grapes with his son Matt, Donati Family Vineyard has moved quickly from growing superior quality grapes to making exceptional award winning wines.
The Donati Family Estate Vineyard site enjoys a variety of soils from limestone to decomposed granite to clay loam – all with access to the cooling ocean breezes of Monterey Bay. Like much of southern Napa and Sonoma counties, Paicines enjoys long warm days followed by cool nights. Donati specializes in producing Bordeaux varietals, though their vineyard is planted to many select clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Petit Verdot. Vine selection plays a critical role in the quality of wine at this family venture. Each vine is carefully screened for viral diseases prior to planting to ensure that the future of the vineyard is secure and that vine health and fruit integrity remain intact from planting through harvest.
The age-old adage, “great wine is made in the vineyard” certainly applies to the wines made at Donati. Matt Donati practices a hands-on year-round vineyard management approach to create an environment where the grapes themselves can be left alone to thrive during ripening. Regular, judicious thinning of shoots during the growing season, attention to every detail of vine canopy training and light management within the fruiting zone, pre and post-veraison green fruit removal, along with scientific analysis of soil and leaf moisture throughout the growing season ensure that every aspect of the Donati Estate viticultural program contributes to the success of the vintage. Primary efforts are directed at sustainable farming, allowing for natural predators to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and provide a clean, hospitable environment for vine growth and fruit maturation. Of course, this path of action requires extreme diligence in scouting for possible problems. But, with active personnel regularly hand-tending each and every vine, the Donati family is making a significant difference in the local environment as well as in the ultimate quality of the grapes and resulting wines that bear their name.
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